Growing up blissfully ignorant of systematic disadvantages, I first realized that the decks were stacked against me when I was denied a spot at the National Football Team through my secondary school.
We were all given the opportunity to sign up for it via the school, but only a handful of prominent students were shortlisted to send to the Football Association of Maldives, based on no athletic talent or audition.
I had to fight tooth and nail with the school administration, voicing how unfair the shortlisting was to even get in. This incident opened my eyes to how things worked; it was always the same students, the ones who had parents of higher social standing, that were given these chances and never to ordinary kids like me.
It made me think back to the extracurriculars in my schools, such as the same students being handed leadership positions and given preferential treatment in the Little Maid, Girl Guide, and even minor things like being assigned to play the triangle in music class at the back.
Growing up in the Maldives, a child born to middle-class parents meant metaphorically playing the triangle in the many things you do; you’d feel virtually invisible in society.
Nepotism is rampant in this country, in every sector and industry. And it has never been so pronounced until the recent scandal of Youth Minister Mahloof.
The topic of nepotism among Maldivian politicians first became popularized when Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) marched against the authoritative government of Maumoon.
Ex-president Maumoon was chastised for appointing family members to high positions, by the then-activist Anni, but many are now pointing out that the current MDP administration shows little difference in this regard.
Nepotism has once again become relevant in the local political sphere since Youth Minister Mahloof’s daughter was featured in a Bollywood music video.
Many have taken to Twitter, scrutinizing Mahloof for using his power and political influence to acquire such opportunities for his child.
The incident with Mahloof has ignited a national conversation about the elites using their unjust privileges to establish advantages for their children that ordinary, otherwise hard-working citizens simply would never get.
Some have referred to his daughter as, “a poster child for nepotism,” and directed their anger toward Mahloof for flaunting “privilege in disadvantaged people’s faces.”
Netizens have since come down heavily on the Youth Minister for misusing position and power to gain personal advantages.
Amidst the crisis, some users have also asked how Mahloof’s wife, Nazra Naseem, was appointed as Chief Executive to Vice President and pointed out that this was yet another example of nepotism revolving around the Minister.
However, the essence of the accusations seems to have been lost on the Youth Minister when he defended himself on Public Service Media, explaining that any parent would seek out opportunities and advantages for their children, whether they are a Minister or not. Additionally, Mahloof reports that he did not use his political influence to create the video.
This interview majorly backfired on Mahloof, with many criticizing him for using public air-time for doing damage-control of a personal issue. Moreover, the Minister’s refusal to acknowledge his privilege has angered the public.
No matter where you stand on this issue, it is apparent that in a community as small as the Maldives, corruption and the likes of nepotism seem inescapable. The elites and the politicians will always have an unfair advantage over the common people with their connections and wealth.
Relating to the nepotism debate, several users have also shared incidents at school where they were denied opportunity for extracurricular activities such as national singing competitions, being awarded prefect positions, and opportunities in sports due to favoritism over the well-connected or “beyfulhaa ge dharin” as the colloquial term have become to be widely used.
The current dialogue of nepotism on social media has been revealing a corrupt system and pronounced the class struggle many citizens face in their daily life.
However, thanks to social media, many are coming out of the woodworks to share their personal stories of being victimized, for being held back in their educational journey, and for being denied opportunities simply for being born to middle-class and lower-class parents.